Festival’s four-day blast to Warwick economy

editorial image

Once again, some 26,000 people swelled the population of Warwick town centre for the 35th annual folk festival which this year was blessed with glorious sunshine.

With cuts in funding from the cash-strapped county council, festival director Dick Dixon is on the look-out for a major new commercial sponsor to help with the cost of future events, which already boost the local economy to the tune of more than £1 million.

Town clerk Derek Maudlin told him: “Over its four days Warwick Folk Festival is the largest single generator of income outside of the castle.”

The town council itself provides £3,500 worth of funding and the district council also offers support - but the county has reluctantly indicated that it must withdraw its support from future years.

Tourism surveys in the past have indicated that when the sun shines shopkeepers, stallholders, hoteliers and restaurateurs in Warwick can benefit to the collective cash register of £1.5 million.

Certainly more shopkeepers decided to remain open on the Sunday.One awkward note Mr Dixon is trying to address is the split between the town centre and the main festival site at Warwick School.

The man who gradually took on the job of running the festival after volunteering to help at the first one, 35 years ago, said: “Some of the people watching great fringe performances in the town square or the seven pubs and three restaurants, don’t even realise the site at Warwick School is open to them too.

“Of course, we do have to charge admission there but our day passes for families are proving more popular than ever and in the evenings there’s the chance to see major stars like Richard Thompson performing.

More than 400 dancers and street performers took to the streets and the site.

This included not only Morris men but sword, clog and even belly dancers, along with mummers and members of a Swedish dance troupe.

Mr Dixon said: “On our main site visitors could virtually eat their way around the world with so many different food traders, and we also ran workshops on song composition and dance and you could hear the history of the Co-operative movement or a lecture from Warwick town cryer, Graham Sutherland, about the town’s fascinating 1,100 history.

“In 2013 we also twinned with Cork Folk Festival, which is also 35 years old, and so performers from Ireland came over and we will send a group back to them in October.

“Finally I must say thanks to school staff, our 300 plus volunteers including Warwick Ambulance Association and members of the recycling and clean-up group ARC CIS.”

n More on pages 11-13 and 19.